Why Time Flies

What color is your underwear? Where did you park your car? You probably can't quite remember, and according to a recent study, it's because everyday routines cause our brains to click to autopilot, making the days seem to pass more quickly.

Dinah Avni-Babad, a psychologist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, found that while we rarely remember routine actions, new experiences become more embedded into our memories. Even though it seems counterintuitive, routine is a form of inaction, she says. "When you tell people routine makes things go faster they say, 'Hmm. Can't be.'"

It helps to think of routine as a straight line in one's memory, she explains. New experiences cause the line to be jagged, packed with new perceptions. This "straight line" effect accounts for the old adage that time passes more quickly as we age. We simply encounter fewer new experiences as we grow old. "The days feel much, much longer when you're a child," she says.

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Want time to pass more slowly? Shake up your life, suggests Avni-Babad. Her study appears in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

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